It’s January, 2008. Seven software executives are drinking hot chocolate in Brendan King’s living room in suburban Saskatoon. They’ve been working together for the better part of a decade. Some of them have known each other even longer than that.
Right now, they’re unemployed.
How they got here (2000 – 2007)
In the early 2000s these seven guys came together as the executive team at Point2 Technologies. Together they built, supported, and maintained Caterpillar’s global used equipment trading system, CatUsed.com.
In 2001, they noticed that heavy equipment had a lot in common with real estate. Both industries were fragmented. Both involved complex transactions requiring the assistance of sales professionals. Both involved the sales of large, expensive assets which, if marketed online, required detailed descriptions and rich media.
The following year, they launched Point2 Agent, a real estate marketing platform that allowed agents to create, edit, and maintain a professional web presence. This platform captured, profiled, and incubated online leads, and even helped generate print
In 2006, they created the Point2 National Listing Service to syndicate listings to major real estate search sites including Google Base, the New York Times, Classified Ventures, and fast-growing startups Oodle, Trulia, and Zillow. By 2007, Point2 NLS was used by 165,000 real estate agents in 84 countries.
In late 2007, for reasons we won’t get into here, all seven executives simultaneously quit their positions at Point2.
The original plan (2008 – 2009)
Now, in Brendan’s living room, these seven out-of-work guys are dreaming up a plan to revolutionize the home services industry. The plan involves connecting home service providers to their customers through social media. Recklessly gesticulating with a cocoa-filled cup, someone shouts out an inspired name for this plan: MyFrontSteps.
Over the following months, they shop their business plan around and drum up $3 million of venture funding. Soon their modest Saskatoon headquarters fills up with bright young software engineers. Half of them work on MyFrontSteps and its sister application, a reputation management platform called StepRep. The rest concentrate on more immediately profitable consulting projects in the industrial sector.
Thanks to this consulting work, the new company is able to turn a profit in its first year of existence.
Meanwhile, it’s becoming apparent that the reputation management solution they’ve developed is just as useful to small and medium businesses outside the home services vertical. In 2009 the MyFrontSteps brand is honourably retired and the company embarks on a new plan.
Plan B (2009 – 2013)
Rather than attempting to sell reputation management directly to small and medium businesses, the new plan is to partner with companies that already have a strong salesforce and established relationship with SMBs, such as newspapers, broadcasters, yellow page publishers, web hosting providers, and interactive agencies.
Under the new plan, StepRep evolves into a white label Reputation Management platform for SMBs, which by 2011 is being sold by over 3000 salespeople at over 250 media organizations across North America.
Meanwhile, elaborating on the reputation theme, the team develops new products to help businesses connect with their customers.
Released in summer 2011, National Brand Reports is an innovative solution for businesses with multiple locations, the first and only reputation tool that lets companies break out their results by location so they can see where they’re getting it right and where they’re getting it wrong.
Summer 2011 also sees the introduction of a Mobile Site Platform. A foolproof way to deploy attractive, easy-to-navigate, mobile-friendly websites, this product is aimed at all the SMBs whose websites are inhospitable to mobile visitors, or who lack a web presence altogether.
The plan takes off (2013 – present)
In spring 2013, Vendasta gains another round of venture capital funding for $8.25 million and launches its latest product, Social Marketing. Social Marketing is a unique social media management tool for small businesses focused on cutting the jargon and providing three simple yet effective solutions: building an audience, providing customer service, and generating new business opportunities on social media.
Vendasta’s team continues to expand and comprises software engineers, business development, and marketing professionals. Every December, Brendan invites us all over to his place for a Christmas party. Hot chocolate is served.
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